Article by Vannessa Dodson
Reflecting his commitment to combining business and humanitarian endeavors, USC trustee Alan Casden (B.S. ’68) has made a generous gift of $10.6 million to USC’s building on Excellence campaign. The gift will establish the Alan Casden Dean’s Chair within the USC Leventhal School of Accounting, create the Casden Real Estate Economics Forecast within the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate, and endow both the Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life and the center’s directorship within the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
“This is a magnificent gift for USC, “ says USC President Steven B. Sample. “Alan Casden has been a creative force in the areas embraced by this gift and has made a significant contribution throughout our region. We are grateful to him for his generosity and proud of him as a member of the Trojan Family.”
Since his graduation some 30 years ago, Mr. Casden has maintained a close connection to USC. He has been an active member of the USC Marshall School of Business board of visitors, the USC Leventhal School of Accounting board of advisors and the advisory council of the Lusk Center for Real Estate. His recent appointment to the USC Board of Trustees is a natural progression in this longstanding relationship with the university.
Mr. Casden enrolled at USC as a sophomore after a disappointing freshman year at UCLA. “The classes were large and offered students little to no personal attention,” he explains. Several friends had encouraged him to give USC a try.
The switch to USC proved auspicious. “I had a very good college experience, one that allowed me to perform well, “ he modestly disclosed. And perform well he did: Mr. Casden graduated cum laude from the USC Leventhal of Accounting in 1968. He also confesses to becoming a dedicated fan of Trojan football, fondly recalling the glory days of Heisman Trophy winner Mike Garrett and his own experiences tutoring several members of the team.
Mr. Casden’s attributes much of this later professional success to this experience at USC and the valuable relationships he formed with USC faculty. Prior to his graduation, one of Mr. Casden’s former professors, then accounting school chair A.N. “Andy” Mosich, steered him to his first professional position, an appointment at a mid-sized accounting firm that dealt in real estate development. The experience led Mr. Casden to take and interest in real estate, and he left the company in 1975 to start a real estate development corporation of his own. Since that time, Mr. Casden has built Casden Properties, Inc., into one of the country’s largest developers of residential properties. “Professor Mosich has remained a valued, lifelong friend,” Mr. Casden says of his mentor.
In the midst of building his company, Mr. Casden also built a large family. He and his wife have five children, two of whom are already attending college. “I encourage them to get the most out of their college careers,” he says, remarking that the experience of campus life is just as valuable as academic achievement.
For Mr. Casden, giving back to USC is especially meaningful because he views his contribution as a “living gift.” With endowment serving as a foundation, or “seed,” the programs he has sponsored will grow and evolve under the leadership of new generations of students and faculty.
“It’s very rewarding,” he adds. “It’s my hope that these gifts will expand the educational experience for future USC students.”
Mr. Casden’s decision to endow the dean’s chair in the USC Leventhal School acknowledges the roots of his successful business career. It is Mr. Casden’s desire that the chair holder will create an environment where the study of accounting can be integrated into a curriculum that focuses on high-technology economics.
Mr. Casden’s gift to support the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate establishes an annual real estate forecasting project that will examine trends within and measure the health of Southern California real estate markets. The Casden Real Estate Economics Forecast will incorporate analysis of regional markets, economic indicators, and other segment factors for the area, tracking both residential and non-residential real estate sectors.
A major portion of Mr. Casden’s gift endows USC’s Institute for the Study of Jews in American Life, which has fostered important scholarship on the contributions of the Jewish community to American society, particularly in the West. Renamed the Cased Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life, the institute is the first-ever scholarly center dedicated to examining contemporary issues of Jewish life in the Western United States. The Casden Institute will serve as a focal point for the enhancing respect and mutual understanding among Jews and people of all faiths and creeds by exploring issues related to the interface between the Jewish community and other groups, and exposing students to the problems as well as the promise of Los Angeles’ ethic, cultural and economic diversity. As part of the gift, Mr. Casden also has named the institute’s directorship in honor of his parents, Myron and Marian Casden.
“USC has a long tradition of promoting diversity and tolerance,” he says. “As the university’s participation in the study of 150 years of Jewish leadership in the building of the West intensifies, we will gain a much clearer picture of the history and its implications for the evolution of the Western United States in the 21st century. I am grateful to be able to contribute to the growth of that knowledge.”
Mr. Casden has been widely honored for his business acumen and community service by government and civic organizations in Los Angeles, across the nation and in Israel. Locally, he received the Los Angeles County Leadership Award for his efforts in pioneering low-income housing. Not only has he been a recipient of a Los Angeles Beautification Award, but in 1987 the Los Angeles Business Council also established a beautification award in his name for new multifamily residential projects. Several ventures initiated by Casden Properties, including the Malibu Canyon project, the Indian Hills housing development in Simi Valley an HillCrest Apartments in Los Angeles, have been recognized for excellence in building and design. In addition, the USC Leventhal School of Accounting honored Mr. Casden in 1988 with its Distinguished Alumnus Award.
As Co-chair of the board of trustees for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international human rights agency, Mr. Casden was instrumental in creating the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles in 1993. He was named a “Friend of Jerusalem” for his service to the International Committee for the Jerusalem 3000 celebration, and he serves on the board of Yeshiva University of Los Angeles. He also has compiled an extensive private collection of Jewish antiquities.
In addition to his involvement in business and his continued interest in issues affecting the Jewish community, Mr. Casden is active in politics at the local, state and national levels. Furthermore, as one would expect of a loyal Trojan, he continues to follow USC football. He admits, “Yes, I still try to make it to one or two games a year.”